BREAKERS: School Board secrecy – Orange shirts – Homeowner lawsuit – Streetlight design – Calypso dance party

October 3, 2023

  • School Board hobbles public information access
  • Mushroom Festival – Oct 22
  • Homeowner lawsuit raises further questions
  • Caregivers group meets – Oct 26
  • Thumbs up for darker streetlight designs
  • Scene around Town – orange shirts and hot Vancouver calypso

School Board hobbles public information access

In February 2023, we reported on the growing limitations to public access to School District 69 Board meeting discussions, particularly when the Board meets as a Committee of the Whole.

Trustee Julie Austin was the only Board member who was “not in favour at all” of the September 26 decision. “In the interest of transparency and being able to access the information, we have the technology, so let’s use it. We keep talking about transparency and keeping the public informed, and this is a piece of technology that does just that.”

At the end of last school year (June 2023), the Board had decided that all of its Board meetings would be held via Zoom only (no in-person meetings).

The Board also decided that meetings of the Regular Board, the Policy & Finance Committee, and the Operations Committee would be recorded and posted for later viewing by the public for an unspecified retention period.

Meetings of the Education Committee of the Whole would not be recorded at all.

At its September 26, 2023 regular meeting, the SD 69 Board decided to rescind and replace its previous decision.

Now, none of the SD 69 Committee of the Whole meetings of the Board will be recorded and made public. The only meetings that will be recorded are the regular monthly Board meetings which will be recorded on Zoom, posted and – presumably ­– retained for public viewing for a reasonable period.

There’s a Catch-22

If a member of the public wants to understand what information, discussions and debate precede any Committee of the Whole (COW) recommendation that is forwarded for a formal vote and adoption at a subsequent Board meeting, they must attend the COW meeting (via Zoom) — on the day and time it is held.

But, as you can see from the meeting schedule available below, many parents will be unable to attend these COW meetings because they are only held weekdays during regular work hours.

For example, Education COW meetings are held on a Tuesday, starting at 2:30 pm. So, any parents interested in obtaining information about the proceedings at an Education COW who work during the day on week-days or who at this time would need to pick up their children after school are out of luck.

Trustee Julie Austin was the only Board member who was “not in favour at all” of the September 26 decision.

Austin said, “In the interest of transparency and being able to access the information, we have the technology, so let’s use it. We keep talking about transparency and keeping the public informed, and this is a piece of technology that does just that.”

Board elections bring new Vice-Chair

The SD 69 Board held elections in August 2023 to fill the positions of Chair and Vice-Chair for the 2023/24 school year. Incumbent Trustee Eve Flynn, unopposed, was acclaimed as Chair. The incumbent Vice-Chair, Trustee Elaine Young, was challenged and defeated by Trustee Julie Austin. — GS


Mid-Island Mushroom and Nature Festival – Oct 22


Homeowner lawsuit raises further questions

In response to our story Frustrated QB homeowner files lawsuit against Town, one of our readers pointed out that Councillor Scott Harrison said that the homeowner had ignored multiple notices from the Town about compliance with the building’s height.

Homeowner Krystyna Janik and her lawyer Josh Bloomenthal do not agree with Harrison’s assertion, and claim that Harrison made false statements.

Here, for additional context, are Harrison’s statements and Bloomenthal’s response, including some additional allegations that Town staff may have misled Council.

Harrison’s statements at the April 12, 2023 Town Council meeting

Councillor Harrison stated, “I feel perfectly comfortable refusing the Variance Permit. There were multiple points where the Town through this process tried to reach out to the people building the home saying ‘Hey .. you might have a [building height] issue.’ That was the thing for me which really led to me initially rejecting the Variance Permit [DVP]. There were multiple opportunities for them to reach out to staff and actually try to get things in compliance.”

Janik’s court application refutes Councillor Harrison’s remarks

Janik’s court Petition states that “During the first and only hearing of the [latest] DVP on April 12, 2023, Councillor Harrison made the following false assertions on the record.”

  1. “…[T]here were multiple points where the town, through this process, tried to reach out to the people building the home saying ‘Hey you might have an issue’;
  • “That he [Harrison] supported rejecting the previous DVP because the Petitioner [Janik] had “multiple opportunities to reach out to staff and actually try to get things in compliance” prior to the completion of the Residence; and
  • “That the Petitioner “essentially flout[ed] any notification from staff that” the height of the Residence was a problem.”
Did Town staff mislead Harrison and his Council colleagues?

Possibly. Janik’s court documents allege that Town Planner Rebecca Augustyn “made a series of false or misleading assertions including that [Town building inspector] Darrell Saby’s request at the time of the footing inspections in March 2017 required the Petitioner [Janik] to provide a survey of the height of the Residence even though it had not even been constructed and therefore could not have been surveyed.”

Augustyn made these statements in her December 2018 report to Council, with the concurrence of Planning Director Luke Sales and then CAO Daniel Sailland, in support of her recommendation that Council refuse the Variance Permit.

Bloomenthal further states in Janik’s court application that “In reliance on the false and misleading assertions in Ms. Augustyn’s memorandum, and her failure to provide an accurate or detailed timeline of the events as they actually unfolded, the Council denied the development variance permit on first hearing without ever offering the Petitioner the opportunity to make any representations or submissions to Council.”

Two years later, in his staff report for the December 2020 Council meeting, current Building Inspector Mark Eshpeter repeated the narrative, disputed by Bloomenthal, that at the time of their March 2017 inspection of the laid foundations, Janik was asked by the Town to not only provide a site survey to verify that the foundations complied with setback requirements (distances from lot perimeter) but also to verify the height of the as-yet unbuilt structure.

Interestingly, in that same December 2020 staff report, Eshpeter advised Council that “All health and life safety items are complete within the dwelling unit and occupancy has been withheld until correction of the height has been completed.” Eshpeter made no effort to suggest that perhaps he did not have the necessary grounds to withhold from Janik an occupancy permit.

Janik lawyer Bloomenthal contends that the Town’s Building Bylaw does “not require an owner to demonstrate compliance with the height restrictions set out in Zoning Bylaw as a condition of obtaining an occupancy permit.”

If the Building Bylaw does delegate to the Building Inspector the operational decision of if and when to issue an Occupancy Permit, it would seem that the Building Inspector would be obliged to accept the accountability that goes with his authority. Seeking public endorsement from Council of his decision to refuse an Occupancy Permit, regardless of his reasons, raises a question of whether this might be a case of staff seeking Council approval to avoid staff accountability for an operational decision. — GS


Caregivers group meets – Oct 26

Join the Oceanside Caregivers at The Gardens in Qualicum Beach at 1:00 pm on Thursday, October 26.

Resources for caregivers are provided in an environment of understanding, hope and caring support.

The Gardens, 650 Berwick Road N., Qualicum Beach

Contact: caroldowe@gmail.com — LS


Thumbs up for darker streetlight designs

There has been much reaction to the recently unveiled proposed architecture of the Pheasant Glen Resort Lodge and Villas, including from the Town’s Advisory Planning Commission (APC) – see related article in this edition.

One aspect of the planned resort’s architectural form and character that stands out in vivid contrast to other existing Town neighbourhoods is the site lighting design.

Here is project planner Nigel Gray’s perspective:

“Our offices [Macdonald Gray] are down in San Pareil. The thing we love about San Pareil is there are no streetlights. I can see the stars. When we talk about resort communities and resort style development I think night sky viewing preservation should be top of our list. So we’ve incorporated all downlit, all dark sky compliant fixtures into our design along with abiding by CPTED techniques (crime prevention through environmental design). So there is some area lighting in the parking lot. It is site lighting but it is full cutoff [no horizontal light trespass].”

Site lighting design, Pheasant Glen Resort proposal – Advisory Planning Commission Sep 13, 2023.

APC Commissioner Maureen Dyson commented favorably on the planned “dark sky lighting,” and sought confirmation that they did not plan to “light up and accentuate the [Lodge] building.”

Gray replied: “It is all intended to be under the soffits, and downlit from low level bollards. We have a couple, I think three, overhead lights in the parking lot but, again, these will be LED and they will completely cutoff and downlit. You should only see the wash of the light – never see the fixture unless you’re standing right under it.”

None of the Weir’d street lighting that Town CEO Lou Varela and her team are imposing on other comparable neighbourhoods in Qualicum Beach — many streets that have far less vehicle and pedestrian traffic than can be expected in the Pheasant Glen Resort.

We cannot help imagining that Bob Weir, John Wood and Scott Harrison must be apoplectic about the safety hazards and liability risks down there in “dark sky” San Pareil. — GS


Scene around Town – orange shirts and hot Vancouver calypso

Orange Shirt Day at the Qualicum Beach Farmers Market, September 30, 2023

ORANGE SHIRTS were spotted around town and up and down the QB Farmers Market on Saturday, September 30 to commemorate Orange Shirt Day held annually on this day in recognition of residential school harm to children and their families.

Orange Shirt Day was inspired by former student Phyllis (Jack) Webstad who told her story of her first day at residential school when her shiny new orange shirt, bought by her grandmother, was taken from her as a six-year old girl.

The Orange Shirt Society was formed in Williams Lake, BC to encourage and support communities to recognize Orange Shirt Day and to support reconciliation events and activities.

Members of the Qualicum First Nation were on hand at the Farmers Market, giving orange shirts away to children and chatting with market visitors.

The Qualicum First Nation Culture Program provides Aboriginal Culture Kits to early years centres and K-2 classrooms throughout Vancouver Island.

For more information, contact: Aboriginalculturekits.com or qfnculturekits@shaw.ca — LS


HOT CALYPSO spurred an enthusiastic, packed audience at QB’s community hall on Saturday, September 2nd to see San Pedro Cinco who, according to the Vancouver Folk Music Festival, are “Five of Vancouver’s most tasteful and forward-thinking jazz stalwarts.”

WATCH VIDEO San Pedro Cinco Video courtesy Russel Sholberg

Visits to Costa Rica inspired group members to write their own music in the ‘pure vida’ vibe cumbia, calypso, and other Caribbean and Latin music styles.

Original compositions by trumpeter JP Carter, Tony Wilson (guitar), and Russel Sholberg (bass) held the audience in thrall, and “rhythm wizards” Robin Layne (vibes/percussion) and Liam MacDonald (drums/percussion) elicited frequent ovations.

Festival organizers summed the group up well, “With superb musicianship and a heavy-hitting rhythm section, this is music made for both good listening, and for dancing…” And dance the audience did!

Thanks to Mick Sherlock at Oceanside Folk & Roots Club for bringing these and other great musicians to QB. Get on Mick’s mailing list to hear about upcoming shows: micksherlock58@gmail.com or call 403.608.7280. — LS